Freddie Herko, Warhol Superstar, Danced Himself Out 5th Floor Window

Freddie Herko was already a successful dancer, when he began associating with some of the regulars at Andy Warhol‘s Factory. In fact, Andy himself became fascinated by the young, Herko, casting the dancer in three of his early films. The two became close for a time. But, a struggle with addiction would initiate a rapid physical decline, culminating in homelessness and a final dance performance, where Freddie leapt out his friends 5th story window, falling to his death.

Born February 23 1936, young Freddie Herko was a musically gifted pupil, at both piano and the flute. This musical talent easily got Herko a scholarship into Julliard’s music program.

  • Aside from his music courses, Freddie enrolled in a single mandatory dance class.

In 1954 Freddie attended a performance of the ballet, Giselle. The performance by Igor Youskevitch, had a profound effect on the aspiring musician. Shortly thereafter Herko declared to his family, that he wanted to be a dancer and he had already received a scholarship to the American Ballet Theater School.

His Father Objected, Violently beating Freddie!

Before Freddie Herko left Julliard, in the fall of 1954. He met a beatnik and aspiring poet, Diane di Prima. Their first run-in took place on a park bench and their meeting would mark the beginning of a life long friendship for the pair. The attachment developed so quickly, that when di Prima moved into a new apartment several months later, Herko basically moved in with her.

  • By 1965, Freddie was dancing full time, taking several daily classes at the Ballet Academy, and taking temp filing jobs to make ends meet.
  • By 1960, both Freddie Herko and Diane di Prima had moved again. This time, both were in the same apartment building on Houston and Avenue B. Fred‘s Apartment was directly above Diane‘s.

Although Herko’s parents were paying for him to see a psychiatrist, to cure his attraction to men.. Freddie had a veracious sexual appetite. He had a stream of lovers and one night stands.

di Prima recalled a revolving door of men, leaving Freddie‘s apartment in the morning’s when she would arrive for her daily coffee date with Herko.

Until one morning, when Diane arrived at Freddie‘s door for their morning coffee, there was a man still sitting at the kitchen table. He was a struggling actor, Herko had picked up the night before, at a house party. His name was Alan Marlowe, and Freddie had moved him in. Marlowe‘s arrival would mark the end of di Prima‘s morning coffee dates with Freddie.

Despite Freddie Herko, Diane di Prima and Alan Marlowe all being founding members of the New York Poet’s Theatre. The relationship between di Prima and Marlowe was strained. So strained, in fact that Diane quickly moved out of their shared apartment building, feeling that Alan Marlowe was encouraging her to leave. For her part, she felt Alan had taken her place in Freddie‘s life.

In December of 1961, Freddie Herko appeared in James Waring‘s play, “Nights at the Tango Palace” at New York’s Poet Theatre, of which Herko was a founding member. Diane di Prima would later recall, “Jimmy‘s play about a dance palace, derived most of it’s moments of grace from Freddie Herko playing a mute janitor, who knows, but can’t tell anything of what’s going on.”

One of the stage managers for “Nights at the Tango Palace” was Billy Name, who would go on to design the original Factory for Andy Warhol and would be cast in several of Warhol‘s films. When recalling his experience working on Tango Palace, Name said “I also did a Freddie Herko concert.”

But, behind the scenes, the relationship between Freddie Herko and Alan Marlowe was becoming very strained. Those, in their orbit believed, the tension between them was caused by Marlowe’s desire to be the passive sexual partner. This was the role that Freddie wanted.

No sooner had Diane di Prima settled in her new apartment, when she received a call from Freddie. He and Alan had broken up. Herko was beside himself and he ended up moving in with di Prima in her new apartment. Diane would hear Freddie crying his eyes out, late into the night, every night. After a few months Freddie moved out, and in an unexpected plot twist and even though Diane put the blame on Alan for Freddie‘s mental breakdown, Alan Marlow moved in.

It wasn’t long before the relationship between Diane di Prima and Alan Marlowe became physical. By 1962 the pair were married. Di Prima was unaware, at the ceremony that she was pregnant with Alan‘s child. The pair then relocated to California.

  • On March 5 1962, Freddie performed in “An Evening Of Dance Presented By The New York Poets Theatre”
  • On July 6 1962, Herko performed a solo in the first “Concert of Dance” at the Judson Dance Theatre.

In December of 1962, Diane di Prima returned to New York to introduce Alan to her parents. She saw allot of Freddie, but there was a great deal of tension between them. Freddie believed that Diane had stolen Alen from him. But he also shocked Diane by revealing something staggering..

Freddie Herko had been snorting and injecting speed. He believed that he was unable to dance and perform at the required level, without it. He was too old when he started taking dance class and now.. he was changing.. becoming a different person.

1963 was the year that Freddie Herko began associating with Warhol Factory regular Billy Name. Soon, he himself would be visiting the factory.

On January 29 1963 Billy Name did the lighting for Judson Dance Concert #3. Freddie Herko performed a solo at the event, which was reviewed by the village voice. “Fred Herko‘s little Gym Dance Before The Wall For Dorthey is a wonderful vignette: coming straight out down the middle, removing jacket and boots, and sauntering off casually, right down the middle”

  • In April of 1963 Freddie arrived at Diane di Prima‘s home in California, where Billy Name had been recovering. for a brief visit, on his way to San Francisco. Diane di Prima and Billy Name decided to go with Freddie, leaving behind Alan Marlowe.
  • On April 29 1963, Freddie Herko opened Judson Dance Theatre’s concert #6. One of Herko’s back up dancers said that Freddie‘s solo was technically beyond most of the dancers abilities. and described Freddie‘s performance “A kind of Theatre of Marvels”

Then on May 1 and 2 1963, Herko performed in “Freddie Herko Presents The Palace of the Dragon Prince” at the Judson Church. Then on May 19 and 20 Herko was back at Judson Church, this time with Lucinda Childs, James Waring and Dance Company, Then on June 10th he appeared in “The Pocket Follies” at Pocket Theatre.

Between June 23 and August 26 1963, Billy Name, set lighting for at least 8 performances of 3 different shows, in which Herko was performing.

In November of 1963, Andy Warhol took his first footage of Freddie Herko. It was an 18 minute silent film called “Haircut” and It co-stared Billy Name.

Freddie Herko, was now more frequently, visiting Billy Name at the Factory and Andy Warhol had taken an interest in Freddie. He was fascinated by the young dancer and in April of 1964 he included Freddie Herko in his film “The Thirteen Most Beautiful Boys” along side Gerard Malanga, Billy Name and Denis Hopper. It was a compilation of some of Andy‘s screen tests.

After a show at New York Poets Theatre, on February 17,18 and 19 Herko returned to Judson Church for “Fantastic Gardens”. In his performance he used a watering tin to water a garbage can, until he pulls the lid off to reveal flowers blooming inside.

  • Inspired by this performance, Andy Warhol would later posthumously name one of his Flower paintings after Freddie Herko.

On February 23 1964, Freddie Herko celebrated, what would be his last birthday.

In March 1964, Freddie Herko starred in Andy Warhol‘s film “Rollerskate”. They filmed a smiling and bleedin, Freddie skating all over town with one skate, day and night.

Herko opened the show, for “Judson’s Dance Theatre Concert” #16 on April 29, 1964. Then, on May 1st and 2, It was “Freddie Herko Presents the Palace of the Dragon Prince”, followed by, “Freddie Herko and Lucinda Childs perform with James Waring” on May 19 and 20.

Freddie Herko, gave his final performance at the end of may in the play “Home Movies” at Judson Church. He was cast as, an over the top queen.

The drug use, had taken a devastating physical and mental tole on Freddie. He was no longer able to perform. His bones had become brittle and his teeth were falling out. Now, he was only able to work as a choreographer. Herko was devastated and his personality had also changed. He had become much more aggressive, aggravated by his recent homelessness.

On October 2,1964 Freddie Herko arrived at the 5th floor apartment of former lover and Judson Memorial Church, concert Lighting Director, Johnny Dodd. Herko was trembling and filthy. After taking a bath, according to Andy Warhol, in Popism, via Pat Hacket:

Freddy put Mozart’s Coronation Mass on the hi-fi. He said he had a new ballet to do and he needed to be alone. He herded the people there out of the room. As the record got to the ‘Sanctus’, he danced out the open window with a leap so huge he was carried halfway down the block onto Cornelia Street five stories below…

For the twenty-six nights following Freddy’s death, the group at Diane di Prima’s apartment met formally to read the Tibetan Book of the Dead… There was a memorial service for him at Judson Church, but so many people showed up that there was another one for him, at the Factory. We showed the three films.

On December 7 1964, when Film Culture magazine presented it’s independent film award to Andy Warhol, Freddie Herko‘s screentest featured in the “13 most Beautiful Boys’ was one of the clips shown.

Nearly 50 Years after Freddie Herko‘s Death, In 2014, his remaining friends and loved ones. Got together to host multiple events in Manhattan, honoring Freddie, in a week long tribute. The purpose of which, was to finally elevate Herko into is rightful place in the pantheon of the Avant Guard movement, through celebrations of his too short, but fascinating life.

To this day, Freddie Herko remains, one of Andy Warhol‘s most memorable superstars.

2 thoughts on “Freddie Herko, Warhol Superstar, Danced Himself Out 5th Floor Window

  1. This blog is great. Why the long break? You really profile very obscure interesting people and events. Please stick around going forward!!! Just awesome. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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